The Australian Government is working to improve the management of the Murray–Darling Basin. This is to secure a healthy, sustainable river for future generations. Delivering the Basin Plan and reforming our water markets means protecting our communities and ensuring the entire Basin system is on a sustainable path going forward.
The Water Amendment (Restoring Our Rivers) Act 2023 commenced on the 7 December 2023. The Act made changes to the Water Act 2007 and Basin Plan 2012.
These significant reforms provide:
- more time
- more options
- more funding
- more accountability to deliver the Basin Plan and remaining water recovery targets in full.
You can find out more about the Water Amendment (Restoring Our Rivers) Act 2023 on the Parliament of Australia website.
The reforms provide more time to meet remaining water recovery targets:
- extend Basin Plan timeframes by three and a half years (to December 2027), allowing more time to recover water for the environment
- extend the deadline for completion of Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism (SDLAM) supply projects by two and half years (to 31 December 2026)
- allow more time for new SDLAM projects to be proposed (to June 2025)
- give extra time for consultation, design, and construction of large-scale projects.
The reforms expand the options available to meet water recovery targets:
- repeal the statutory 1,500 GL cap on Commonwealth water purchases
- increase ways to deliver water for the environment to reduce reliance on buybacks. These include on-farm and off-farm efficiency projects, and land and water packages
- provide opportunities for new projects and more time for current projects that can help deliver the 605 GL Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment
The reforms provide more funding to deliver the Basin Plan and support communities:
- enable funds from the Water for the Environment Special Account (WESA) to be used to fund a range of water recovery activities that can deliver the 450 GL of environmental water
- provide assistance funding to communities affected by water purchases.
The reforms provide more accountability for all Basin governments to deliver on obligations. These include changes to ensure our water markets are transparent and have the integrity expected of markets of this size and significance:
- strengthen the role of the Inspector-General of Water Compliance (IGWC)
- provide the IGWC new power to engage an auditor to examine the MDBA’s sustainable diversion limit calculations
- ensure a third independent review of the Water for the Environment Special Account in 2025 to assess progress in meeting the 450 GL target
- move the statutory review of the Water Act to 2027 so it can be based on the latest science and the outcomes of the Basin Plan review and reconciliation
- establish a clear and consistent framework for Basin water markets conduct and information
- introduce new water markets functions and powers for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the Bureau of Meteorology and the IGWC
- create a framework for a new mandatory code for water markets intermediaries, obligations for water markets decisions, and data reporting requirements
- provide new insider trading and market misconduct prohibitions
- remove the exemption for grandfathered tags for consistency for all water entitlement holders.
Amendments to the Bill
In passing the legislation, the Australian Parliament made amendments to the Bill to:
- have an independent review of existing Basin Plan infrastructure projects
- increase funding for Aboriginal Water Entitlement Holdings
- support Basin First Nations people to develop cultural flows planning and cultural economies
- improve the health of the Upper Murrumbidgee
- review the environmental outcomes that can be delivered from the Snowy Hydro Scheme.
Implementing the Plan – read how we’re delivering the new legislation